Disabled Canterbury man with extreme toothache waits 4 months for treatment

A disabled man was told he would have to wait four months for an appointment to see Canterbury...
A disabled man was told he would have to wait four months for an appointment to see Canterbury DHB's disability team about his tooth ache. Photo: Supplied
A disabled Canterbury man suffering painful toothache has been told he will have to wait four months before he can even have a consultation.

Matthew, who has high and complex needs including autism and intellectual disability, is having to take Panadol every four hours, refusing hot drinks and having sleepless nights while he waits for an appointment at Christchurch Hospital to have general anaesthetic to remove one cracked and broken tooth.

And while he faces a four-month wait for a consultation, his mother Helen is concerned about it impacting his already challenging behaviour as a result of his pain which led to him ransacking his room last week.

A disability advocate has also written to the director general of health asking to intervene due to concerns around not only his own health and safety but his family's who he lives with.

Matthew went to a private dentist last week who discovered his crown had broken off and the nerve was exposed. The tooth next to it also had a crack right through it.

Despite her adult son having limited vocabulary, Helen said he was obviously in a lot of pain and one side of his mouth was swollen.

He was booked into having both teeth removed at an emergency dentist, but after the dentist administered the first of four injections it was clear he was not going to tolerate it, his mum said.

The dentist aborted the extraction due to the risk that she could cut him with a scalpel she used to extract the tooth if he moved his head. The concern came after he jerked his head and clamped his mouth shut during the first of four injections to numb the area.

"They tried to put the first one in and it was painful that he kind of jerked and closed his mouth shut."

He was referred to the dental team at Canterbury DHB who told Helen when she called last week there was a four-month wait for a consultation.

"I said, 'but he's in pain. I can't feed him Panadol every four hours for four months'."

Helen who was speechless over the wait times, said the staff member then suggested she go privately.

"Seriously are you kidding me?".

"He has high needs and they expect a person like him who has the capacity of a preschooler to understand why - what are we supposed to do come up with $15,000 to $20,000?"

Helen said the wait times for urgent dental surgery were not good enough and the DHB needed more staff and it was a breach of a patients' rights.

CDHB hospital dental service clinical director Lester Settle admitted the current four-month wait time for non-urgent surgical intervention was longer than they would like and that the number of people on the wait list exceeded the theatre allocation of 750 to 800 appointments per annum.

Settle said the DHB was trying to reduce the wait list by changing the treatment list offered under general anaesthetic so that fissure sealants can be done by community dentists and therefore allow them to treat more patients each day.

However, requests for urgent dental surgery were given priority and those with acute needs were often given a consult on the same day as the referral was received. The surgery was then carried out within one to three days with the majority completed within 24 hours.

While CDHB would not comment on care relating to specific patients, Kettle said they did recognise that some patients with severe disabilities were restricted to the public system if they could not be treated by sedation at a community dentist.

He also acknowledged private treatment could sometimes be cost prohibitive to people seeking assistance in this setting.

Independent disability advocate Jane Carrigan has written to director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield asking for his intervention to get him immediate help.

She said Matthew could be violent towards his family and cause considerable damage in the home and asked for Matthew to have the treatment done privately not only for his own health and safety and that of his family.

Carrigan told the Herald said there was no support for families who were caring for people with high complex needs in their homes and they had to "run the gauntlet with everybody else in circumstances which were just about impossible".

"The reality is the Government should be funding for these people to go private if they can't receive the care in the public system."










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